If there was a sense of urgency in this snoozer of a game, it likely came in the fourth quarter. The Magic were not getting much offensively, were doing enough defensively to keep the scoring margin close but not inspiring much hope that they would come back and win. Not with Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick out with nagging injuries. Orlando had just nine players available and just two true guards available.
It was asking a lot for Orlando even to make this a game against a Playoff-contending team like Philadelphia.
No, at the end of the game Orlando needed two things to happen. The Magic needed a fourth-quarter 3-pointer from Josh McRoberts to extend a 458-game streak of making at least one 3-pointer. Then Ish Smith took a rebound down the length of the court and made a floater with 0.7 seconds left to break 60.
Yes, that is the lede from this game. The Magic fought, they had the effort and they did all they could to stay in this game. They just did not have the depth or the ability to keep things going for 48 minutes. The 76ers withstood two big rallies from the Magic and ran away with a 78-61 win at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Monday.
Orlando shot 33.8 percent from the floor and just 1 of 12 from beyond the arc. The Magic were scrappy though, grabbing 10 offensive rebounds and playing good defense for the most part. Except for a few stretches, the Magic closed down the paint and kept the 76ers shooting jumpers. They made more shots and were better able to make shots.
Philadelphia had 13 fast break points in the first quarter and had a 22-6 lead before you could blink. It was not going to be a pretty night, that was for sure.
Still, the Magic got rebounds and kept at it. Led by E'Twaun Moore, Orlando cut the lead to three late in the second quarter. The Magic did that again early in the third quarter. If the Magic could have caugh fire on offense, who knows what would have happened?
That did not happen obviously.
The guys Orlando needed to have the ball and produce did not, showing off more of their youth than anything else.
Nikola Vucevic was active on the glass in grabbing 14 rebounds, but scored only nine points on 3-for-10 shooting. As is often a criticism with Vucevic, he never really demanded the ball in the post. When he got it there, he made some nice moves. Still, he struggled getting around Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen, both of whom seemed to know his moves.
Maurice Harkless also was more confident and aggressive. He started the game making a long 2-point shot. He was thinking of going to the basket and made several nice moves. But he struggled to finish. Harkless scored 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting. He got to the basket but had his shot blocked a few times and struggled to finish or draw fouls.
This experience having the ball in their hands certainly was invaluable, even though they struggled to lead the team.
E'Twaun Moore had a strong game with 18 points on 9-for-17 shooting. He was one of the few guys able to space the floor and finish around the basket. He looked like he was playing back at Purdue with the ball in his hands with a scoring mentality. Andrew Nicholson also was strong off the bench with 11 points and six rebounds.
Philadelphia's defense though did a good job shutting down the Magic and keeping the offense from gaining any momentum or confidence. The 76ers had little to worry about on the perimeter and so they packed the paint and blitzed any ballhandler with a hard double and tried to squeeze the ball back out to the perimeter on dribble penetration.
The strategy worked since Orlando could not hit a shot or do much in the way of getting into the paint.
Without four starters for the lineup, the Magic certainly can feel like they can wash their hands of this result. It still is a 10-game losing streak though and still a defeat the team has to suffer through.